100 Black Men,  General Motors encourage young people to pursue stem careers

By Brelaun Douglas (NNPA/DTU Fellow, Atlanta Voice)

Cadillac 30th Anniversary 100 Black Men Convention

A young participant shares his art work during a workshop titled ““Bringing STEM Education to Life,” at the 30th Anniversary 100 Black Men Convention in Atlanta, Georgia. (Todd Burford/Cadillac)

 

In an effort to boost minority participation in science and technology, 100 Black Men of America recently hosted a panel discussion with representatives from General Motors to encourage young minorities to think outside the box when it comes to their career paths.

This summer, 100 Black Men of America, an organization dedicated to educating and empowering African American youth, held their annual conference in Atlanta, Ga., that focused on topics like civic engagement and managing money. The event also included a panel discussion titled, “Bringing STEM Education to Life,” a workshop geared towards getting youth interested in science, technology, engineering and math fields, commonly known as “STEM.”
Panel members included Sherwin Prior, managing director for General Motors Ventures; Tobin Williams, executive director of human resources and corporate staff for General Motors; and Aaron Richardson, senior manager for IT development for General Motors who discussed how STEM was involved in something young boys often love: cars.
“[Technology] is absolutely essential. Over 33 years, the company that I work for [has become] a very different company,” said Williams. “Thirty-three years ago it was primarily a manufacturing company. Three years ago it was primarily a finance company and today it’s pretty much a software company. We are continuously looking for individuals who have the capability in software. There is a blending in terms of the software skill capability between engineering and computer science.”
Prior agreed, stating that STEM is all about “ thinkers and problem solvers” and that the panelists were some of the people who drive the technology behind cars.
The panelists also talked about the challenges that the young people may face in an industry or career path where most people don’t look like them.
In 2012-2013, Black males accounted for just 8.7 percent of the people who earned degrees in STEM fields, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
“Opportunities are rarely convenient,” said Richardson. “They’re often disguised in something that seems like, ‘oh, I got to do this,’ or ‘I can’t do this, I can’t do that.’ It’s always disguised in challenge. So I challenge you to think about that as you think about how you want to continue your learning in the STEM area to think about the sacrifices that you have to make that will ultimately lead to significant benefits in the long term.”
Prior also told the youth not to be discouraged by the lack of diversity in STEM fields.
“It’s about changing the narrative,” he said. “Don’t believe that African Americans aren’t doing phenomenal fantastic things. They just aren’t talked about in the media like they should be.”
After the discussion, participants lined up to ask the panelists questions about how the technology in the cars worked and about the science and engineering that goes into building the cars. Questions included things such as what is the future of jobs for workers when more and more jobs are becoming automated, how safe the vehicle is and what the future of the technologic capabilities of the car looked like.
Participants were then invited to draw their own cars and decide what type of technology, old or new, the cars would include. The young men designed everything from cars that could hover and drive themselves to cars that could be unlocked with a fingerprint rather than a key.
The crowd was populated with young, Black boys, mainly middle and high school-aged, from across the nation including 13-year-old Noel Towson, who finds the 100 Black Men beneficial to him.
Towson, along with five other young men from the South Bend, Ind., chapter, came to the conference with his chaperone Eldridge Lewis Chism Jr., who is also a 100 Black Men member. Chism has been involved with the organization for years and found the conference and panel beneficial because it gave the young men “new thoughts and new ideals and hopefully provide[d] them an opportunity.”
“My mom took me to the ‘100 Black Men’ the first time,” said Towson. “I liked what they taught us, the life lessons and how to better prepare ourselves for the future, so I just stuck with it.”
Brelaun Douglas is a 2016 NNPA “Discover The Unexpected” (DTU) journalism fellow at the Atlanta Voice. The DTU journalism fellowship program is sponsored by Chevrolet. Check out more stories by the fellows by following the hashtag #DiscoverTheUnexpected on Twitter and Instagram. Learn more about the program at nnpa.org/dtu.

Supreme Court rules for Black Georgia death row inmate

By Lawrence Hurley

 

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday effectively overturned a Black man’s 1987 conviction for murdering a white woman, rebuking Georgia prosecutors for unlawfully excluding Black potential jurors in picking an all-white jury that condemned him to death.

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Timothy Foster

The 7-1 ruling handed a major victory to Timothy Foster, who is 48 now and was 18 at the time of the 1986 killing of Queen Madge White, a 79-year-old retired schoolteacher, in Rome, Georgia. Prosecutors, however, still could seek a new trial.
Black convicts make up a disproportionately high percentage of death row inmates in the United States. Opponents of capital punishment assert that the American criminal justice system discriminates against Black defendants. During jury selection, all four Black members of the pool of potential jurors were “struck” by prosecutors, meaning they were removed from consideration. Prosecutors gave reasons not related to race for their decisions to exclude them.
Chief Justice John Roberts, who wrote the ruling, said prosecution notes introduced into evidence that shed light on the jury selection “plainly belie the state’s claim that it exercised its strikes in a ‘color blind’ manner. The sheer number of references to race in that file is arresting.”
The notes showed that the prosecution marked the names of the black prospective jurors with a “B,” highlighted them in green and circled the word “Black” next to the race question on juror questionnaires.
The prosecution gave reasons for excluding potential Black jurors including that they “did not make enough eye contact” during questioning and were “bewildered,” “hostile,” “defensive,” “nervous” and “impudent.”
Roberts said prosecutors “were motivated in substantial part by race” when two of the potential jurors were excluded. Two such strikes based on race “are two more than the Constitution allows,” Roberts added.
The Supreme Court ruled in 1986, the same year as this murder, that it is unconstitutional to take race into account when excluding potential jurors.
Prosecutors said Foster broke into the elderly woman’s home in the middle of the night, broke White’s jaw, sexually assaulted her, beat and strangled her, and stole items from her house. Foster later confessed to killing White, according to court papers.
At the time of the trial, Foster’s legal arguments regarding jury selection failed. But in 2006 his lawyers obtained access to the prosecution’s jury selection notes, which showed that the race of the Black potential jurors was highlighted, indicating “an explicit reliance on race,” according to Foster’s attorneys.
According to court documents filed by Foster’s lawyers, the lead prosecutor said of his exclusion of the potential black jurors: “All I have to do is have a race-neutral reason, and all of these reasons that I have given the court are racially neutral.”
Foster’s lawyer, Stephen Bright of the Southern Center for Human Rights, said the legal challenge would not have succeeded without the notes. “This discrimination became apparent only because we obtained the prosecution’s notes which revealed their intent to discriminate. Usually that does not happen. The practice of discriminating in striking juries continues in courtrooms across the country,” Bright said.
The Supreme Court’s ruling threw out a Georgia Supreme Court decision rejecting Foster’s claim about prosecutorial misconduct in jury selection, meaning a state court will now reverse his conviction.
The sole dissenter in the ruling was the court’s only Black justice, Clarence Thomas. Thomas said the case should have been sent back to state courts to determine whether Foster’s claim could proceed.

Black students ejected from Trump rally in GA.

Jennifer Jacobs, The Des Moines Register

Students at Valdosta

VPC Police officers outside Donald Trump’s rally Monday evening at Valdosta State

About 30 Black students were escorted out of a Donald Trump rally in Valdosta, Georgia. Hear some of the students tearfully describe what happened. 

 

VALDOSTA, GA. — There are different accounts of who made the decision to eject approximately 30 Black students who say they were standing silently at the top of the bleachers at Donald Trump’s rally here Monday evening.
Late Monday night, a Trump spokeswoman denied that the incident at Valdosta State University’s campus was initiated “at the request of the candidate” or the presidential campaign. A spokesman for the Secret Service contradicted the students’ statements that federal agents led them out of the building, saying Trump staff and local law enforcement officials were in charge of handling protesters.However, Valdosta Police Chief Brian Childress tried to clear up the confusion Tuesday morning, telling USA TODAY that he personally went to speak to the Trump campaign staff and the local law enforcement officers helping with security to confirm who ordered the students out, and to ask why.
“These folks were told to leave the PE complex by the Trump detail,” Childress said.
The police chief said he thinks the Trump staff made the right call — and it wasn’t a racial issue.
Trump had rented the venue, so “he had the right to tell folks he didn’t want to be there, that they had to leave. I’m not campaigning for anyone. That’s not what I do. But in this case, I support them,” Childress said.
The sight of the students, who were visibly upset, being asked to leave the grounds created a stir at a university that was a whites-only campus until 1963.
The young people said they had planned to sit in silent protest, but were escorted out by security officials before the presidential candidate began speaking. The incident was recorded on video by several attendees.
“We didn’t plan to do anything,” said a tearful Tahjila Davis, a 19-year-old mass media major, who was in the group of Valdosta State University students, many of whom were wearing all black, that was removed. “They said, ‘This is Trump’s property; it’s a private event.’ But I paid my tuition to be here.”
Brooke Gladney, a 22-year-old marketing and business management major, said: “The only reason we were given was that Mr. Trump did not want us there.”
After this story was published Monday evening, Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks said in an email: “There is no truth to this whatsoever.” She said “the campaign had no knowledge of this incident.”
Trump has been regularly heckled by protesters at his campaign rallies, but tensions have increased after he came under fire on Sunday for not immediately condemning support from a prominent white supremacist.
Earlier Monday, some black students at another Trump campaign rally, on the campus of Radford University in Virginia, were led out by security officers after they began chanting: “No more hate! No more hate! Let’s be equal, let’s be great!”
Trump’s two campus rallies took place just one day before high-stakes Super Tuesday, when 11 states hold GOP contests, including a collection of southern states. Trump is poised to lock down enough delegates to give him a sizable — and possibly insurmountable — lead over his GOP rivals.
Robert Hobak, a spokesman for the Secret Service, said agents were reportedly in the area where the Valdosta students were standing inside the venue, but they would have been simply monitoring. Escorting protesters out of rallies is “not our function,” he said. It’s up to the host committee, campaign staff and local law enforcement to handle, he said.
“This happens sometimes that people will confuse us with other law enforcement,” Hobak said Tuesday morning.
Several other Valdosta students scattered in smaller groups throughout the audience inside the rally said before Trump’s speech that they intended to sit in silent protest, without causing any disruption. They followed through on that. Only one person, who was white, was ejected for protesting during Trump’s remarks.
Among the group of 30 to 40 asked to leave, at least one was white, and several of them committed violations that could have led to their arrest if police hadn’t shown restraint, Childress said.
“What I resent is now some of these folks are going around saying it was a black issue. That’s total nonsense,” he said. “I personally asked why were these folks told to leave and the reason was: they were being disruptive. The Trump staff said they were using profanity. The F-bomb is one word that was used. You can’t be in there using profanity. That violates Georgia law.”
Some of the students could have been arrested for disorderly conduct or for criminal trespass for arguing with the Trump detail when they were asked to leave, Childress said.
Once the students were outside, a combination of local law enforcement officials, including Valdosta police, took over, he said.
Some of the young people who’d been ejected “tried to jump back in line and cut in front of folks who were waiting – and that was a very long line – and that made some of the folks in line upset. At that point, we were told they needed to leave the complex,” the police chief said.
There were roughly 7,000 spectators inside the venue and about 3,000 more outside, he said.
“We didn’t have a single arrest. I think that shows great restraint,” Childress said.